Shining the spotlight on Canadian hopefuls as the PyeongChang Olympic Games continue
The 2018 Canadian Olympic team boasts several big names that already reside in the collective consciousness of the nation. But there are also some new names equally capable of reaching the podium in PyeongChang, South Korea, in week two.
As Canada continues pushing for a new personal-best medal count at the Winter Games, here are five more athletes/events to watch...
1. Kaillie Humphries
COC/CP/HO/COC/Jason RansomIn a sport that requires the strength and power of a sprinter, the skill of an F1 race car driver and the deft touch of a surgeon, Kaillie Humphries guides her carbon-fibre sled along frozen tracks faster than just about anyone in the world. The defending two-time Olympic champion is poised to become the first bobsleigh athlete—man or woman—to take gold in the same event three times. The most successful athlete in the history of women’s bobsleigh, Humphries has dedicated her life to being the best and to flying the flag for her country. She’s come a long way from the anguish that accompanied her Olympic debut. Humphries began her international career as a brakewoman, earning a place on the Canada team for Turin 2006. But just days after the elation of taking part in the opening ceremonies, she was reduced to tears when told by the team’s managers that she would not be competing after all. In hindsight, her heartache served a higher purpose. “I thought: ‘Do I stay here and gain experience or do I go home?’” she recalls. “I decided to stay and support my team by cheering them on. I thought, I couldn’t let that be my Olympic experience, so that was when I made the decision to become a bobsleigh pilot.” And Canada is all the stronger as a sporting nation as a result. Earlier this season, Humphries won the women’s overall World Cup crown for the fourth time to go along with 48 World Cup medals and four World Championship titles.
Sport: Bobsleigh; Event: Two-Woman; Date: February 21st
2. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir insist their return from retirement after two short years has nothing to do with the judging controversy that handed the gold in ice dance to the American duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White in Turin. You’ll have to excuse us for thinking otherwise. The gold medallists from the 2010 Vancouver Games went undefeated in 2016-’17, on the way to their third world title—the Canadian power couple making it clear they’re still among the best in the world. The three-time World Champion ice dancers made history as the first woman and man—and first duo, period—to carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremonies when they led the Canadian contingent last week. And they hope to follow that honour up—and, dare we say, earn a little payback against their American competitors—with another history-making moment later this week. There was a time when some athletes shied away from carrying the flag, fearing that it came with some sort of curse on performance. Moir conceded to feeling added pressure being flag-bearers but will use it as added motivation. “We always say we see that pressure as moral support, because we put as much pressure on ourselves as we can, and we’re going to be ready,” he explains. “The relationship that we have with our teammates on Team Canada is above special... The challenge will be to refocus for our own event, because it’s going to be an emotional high.”
Sport: Figure Skating; Event: Ice Dance; Date: February 19th
3. Team Koe
Kevin Koe assembled his super squad exactly for this moment. One of the greatest shot-makers in the history of curling, Koe made the difficult decision to break up his old band—Brier Champions in 2014—by bringing in Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert from the now-retired Kevin Martin’s crew and Brent Laing from the ranks of Ontario skipper Glenn Howard. All of them had won Brier and world titles previously and delivered the goods together in 2016. There are 36 Brier appearances between the foursome, and Kennedy and Hebert won Olympic gold with Team Martin in Vancouver 2010. Koe’s top challenger will be Niklas Edin’s No. 1-ranked team out of Sweden. Koe lost to Edin in the final of a Grand Slam event just last month. Edin, a two-time World Champion and 2014 Olympic bronze medallist, was actually in attendance at the Roar of the Rings Canadian nationals and was able to sit back and relax while the top Canadian men’s teams duked it out. Any one of Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz, Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, American John Shuster and Brit Kyle Smith could be among the medal mix.
Since curling was reinstated to the Olympics in 1998, Canada has earned 10 of a possible 10 medals—five gold, three silver and two bronze. Which is to say that no Canadian curler who’s gone to the Games in the last 20 years has left without
a medal around his or her neck.
Sport: Men's Curling; Date: February 23rd
4. Max Parrot
Hot off his third straight gold medal at the X Games, Max Parrot is the overwhelming favourite to stand atop the podium in the snowboard big air event. Insanity is nothing out of the ordinary in the newest addition to the Olympic lineup, which requires riders to launch off a massive jump and turn tricks before touching down in one piece. One of the riders at the forefront of “plus-one progression”—that is, adding an extra rotation or an extra flip to the biggest tricks being done—Parrot was the first to land a triple cork in a slopestyle contest (2013), the first to land back-to-back triple corks in a slopestyle run (2014), the first to land a cab triple cork 1800 in a competition (2016) and the first to land a quad underflip in a competition (2017). Outside of competition, he also became the first to land a double backside rodeo 1440 in 2016. The son of a former Alpine skier, it wasn’t that long ago that he had to borrow $20,000 from his parents in order to pay for his international travel and contest entry fees. Safe to say, the investment paid off.
Sport: Snowboard; Event: Big Air; Date: February 23rd
5. Team Canada
With star-studded lineups led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Carey Price, John Tavares and Jonathan Toews, Canadian men have won three of the last four hockey golds—including the last two in Sochi and Vancouver. But it’s a very different team who will be looking for the three-peat in PyeongChang, as the NHL has opted not to allow its players to attend this year. That decision extends to the coaches as well, so instead of Toronto’s Mike Babcock behind the bench, the Canadians will be coached by ex-Vancouver Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins. This past December, Desjardins coached Team Canada to a gold medal at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Seven members of that team form the core of a Canadian roster that’s made up primarily of former NHL journeymen—including ex-Canucks forwards Mason Raymond, Maxim Lapierre and Linden Vey. “All of our players, at somewhere along the line, they’ve been told ‘No,’” Desjardins said at the roster reveal. “But they’ve managed to battle and fight back. They’ve stuck with it, they won’t give up... That’s what our team is about. It’s about guys who have received a ‘No’ but found a way to make a ‘Yes.’” With no NHL participation for the first time since 1994, the tournament is as wide open as ever—with Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Andrei Markov earning Russia the nod of favourite.
Sport: Men's Hockey; Date: February 24th